Lady Bulldogs fall in opener

Published 9:42 pm Tuesday, August 25, 2015

King’s Fork High School’s Hannah O’Neal, No. 7, competes on Monday during the Lady Bulldogs’ 8-0 season-opening loss to visiting Hickory High School.

King’s Fork High School’s Hannah O’Neal, No. 7, competes on Monday during the Lady Bulldogs’ 8-0 season-opening loss to visiting Hickory High School.

The King’s Fork High School field hockey team started the season off with a significant challenge in the form of visiting Hickory High School on Monday, and the Lady Bulldogs fell 8-0.

“I think that we have a lot to learn,” said new KF coach Darcy Pinchbeck. “It definitely shows me what we need to work on.”

Pinchbeck said her main goal this season is for the girls to learn, to apprehend the strategy of the game, and when they are on the field, to “constantly be figuring out what can I do to win the situation.”

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Her past experience in the sport suggests she has a lot of knowledge to give.

She was a four-year letterman in field hockey at Lakeland High School, where she was a star player. One year, she even earned the title of Southeastern District Player of the Year.

Pinchbeck went on to play at Old Dominion University, where she gained some coaching experience through the school’s summer camps that its players were responsible for helping run.

“We did probably eight camps a summer, so it was really good experience of just coaching a whole team of girls,” Pinchbeck said.

Later, she coached at Blair Middle School in Norfolk for two years.

She had been away from the game for a while since then, without the time in her schedule to dedicate to coaching, but this year it worked out.

“I really just wanted to get back involved with sports and hockey,” she said.

Outgoing King’s Fork coach Courtney Van der Linden decided to step away from the game for now amid work and plans to build her family.

She helped the Lady Bulldogs reach greater heights than they had ever reached before. They finished last season with an 11-6 record, their best ever, and advanced as far as the conference tournament semifinals.

Nine players are gone from that team, but Pinchbeck has been excited to get to work with this year’s squad, which consists of 10 juniors, two freshmen and one sophomore.

“We do not have one senior this year, so I, as a coach, am happy about that,” Pinchbeck said. “As a coach, that is what you want — for everyone to come back next year.”

Her plans extend beyond this season in terms of building a formidable program, but she expects her team to be successful this year, too.

“I do think that we’ll have a winning season,” she said, noting the Lady Bulldogs will be competitive in the Southeastern District.

In terms of how King’s Fork will fare in its latest home, Conference 17, Pinchbeck said, “I think we can definitely got to the championship. I think that we’re capable and we have all the tools and things we need to win our conference.”

She expects junior forward Nia Vargas to lead the way. Vargas stands out due to her competitiveness, refusal to give up and her attentiveness to instruction.

“I think her being coachable is a really big plus,” Pinchbeck said.

Junior forward Lauren Park is expected to be another leader for King’s Fork.

“She’s a little more experienced with the game, but her (physicality), the way she’s conditioned, she’s able to outplay others,” Pinchbeck said.

The coach is also excited about the promise shown by freshman midfielder Isabella Gay.

“It’s going to be a big change for the girls in the technical stuff that I coach, but I think at the end that they will be mentally stronger in field hockey and know the game,” Pinchbeck said.

The Lady Bulldogs visit Indian River High School on Wednesday.